Food on film

A NYT piece about food in movies


Eh, cute article, but it limits itself to the usual suspects (Tampopo, Babette's Feast, Big Night), and leaves out quite a few excellent examples. And as for the filmmakers involved--Peter Chelsom? Scott Hicks? Nora Ephron? A better calibre of filmmaker couldn't be induced to making a film?


The article also calls Ang Lee's Eat, Drink, Man, Woman the 'peak' of the trend, forgetting that Tsui Hark made A Chinese Feast a year later, and Stephen Chow God of Cookery a year after that. And while you can always count on Lee to make films full of terminally good taste (I suppose Brokeback did wonders for the gay cause politically, but I can't call it an interesting gay film artistically--much prefer Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, 'Joe Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady and Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros anytime), Chow and especially Hark trump Lee when it comes to outrageous dishes and eyepopping cooking skills, presented with the kind of filmmaking flair (at least on Hark's part, I consider Chow more a comedian than a filmmaker) that Lee so sadly lacks.


I'd mention Ridley Scott's Hannibal for the climactic dinner scene--the film itself is a wretched mess but that dinner was a witty and stylish setpiece, and the appetizer course featured an intriguing recipe for sautéed brains (the trick with sautéing fresh brains is how to keep them firm enough to retain their shape in a hot pan).


Even better is Fruit Chan's Dumplings, about a recipe for dim sum involving human fetuses that grants the consumer renewed youth (Don't watch the shortened version in the Three Extremes DVD; instead, look at the far better feature film, which is included as an extra in the second disc).


And arguably the greatest film on food ever made, at least for me, is Yasujiro Ozu's The Scent of Green Tea Over Rice, a wonderful domestic drama about conflict between a husband and his wife that is resolved in the film's penultimate scene, where they actually make the eponymous Japanese comfort food. It's a quiet, scene, nicely detailed, and a lovely metaphor for what is happening between the two (out of unpromising materials--cold rice, hot tea--comes a classic of Japanese cooking).


It's also the film Kurosawa (Akira, not Kyoshi) liked to poke fun at (He once said something like 'I don't make films about the scent of green tea over rice,' or words to that effect) but I think at least on the subject of Ozu he's both made a point and missed the larger point altogether.

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